President commemorates Volhynia Massacre

Paweł Supernak/PAP

Poland’s president has described the Volhynia Massacre, in which Ukrainian nationalists slaughtered around 100,000 Poles in the Volhynia and East Galicia regions between 1943-45, as “genocide.”

Andrzej Duda was speaking on Monday in Warsaw at commemorations marking the 79th anniversary of the massacre, which occurred in areas that were part of Poland before the start of the Second World War.

Historians estimate that about 100,000 Polish nationals were killed in the massacre, including 40,000-60,000 in Volhynia and 20,000-40,000 in Eastern Galicia, and at least 4,000 on the territory of today's Poland.

According to Poland's National Remembrance Institute, some 10,000-12,000 Ukrainians were murdered during Polish retaliatory operations by the spring of 1945.

In his address at the ceremony, Duda said that the peak of the massacres took place in July and August 1943, with the highest number of killings recorded on July 11, 1943, known as 'Bloody Sunday.'

Duda said the massacre could in fact be classified as genocide.

"The beginning of July is always a difficult time for us Poles ever since that infamous year 1943, when the biggest wave of killings came in July, on the 11th, 'Bloody Sunday.' This atrocity was, in fact, genocide, because its aim was ethnic cleansing, i.e. ridding those regions of their Polish minorities," Duda said.

Duda added that the truth about those events "must be spoken out with a clear, strong voice."

He added, however, that this should not take place in an atmosphere of revenge, and pointed out that current Polish support for Ukrainians was the best proof that relations between both peoples were improving.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who also attended the commemorations, said there could be no reconciliation about the Volhynia killings until the whole truth about the massacre is known.

He added that he personally "will not rest" until all the victims' graves have been found.